A Phenomenology of Depth

John C. Foehl, PhD


In this paper, I re-vision the depth metaphor in a more contemporary epistemological frame. Rather than using depth as a “vertical” metaphor referring to the hidden, remote, or regressed, I use depth as a “horizonal” metaphor referring to the dimensionality of experience, to the ways in which all experience is structured in a figure–ground relationship. A foreground is always contextualized in relation to its background, and the series of relationships of form to field, self to world, subject to other constitute the ways in which meaning is formed, unformed, and transformed in a movement that characterizes how experience becomes what it is. The analyst’s role in deepening involves attending to the immediacy of the immersive perceptive moment, where embodied feeling-states might emerge from an unspecified ground, where the gap between what forms and its context becomes the crucible for new meaning. This entails receptivity to absence as much as presence, to the ways in which formation is always a play between what becomes and what it is not yet there.

Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 24:289-303, June 2014.

Link to Online Publication (available in the library)

Previous Posts:

Malkah Tolpin Notman, MD (2014). Reflections on Widowhood and Its Effects on the Self. Psychodynamic Psychiatry: Vol. 42, No. 1, pp. 65-88.

Fred Busch, PhD (2013). Changing views of what is curative in 3 psychoanalytic methods and the emerging, surprising common groundThe  Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 36:27-34.

Bennett Simon, MD (2013). Mondrian’s Search for Geometric Purity: Creativity and Fixation. American Imago, 70/3: 515-555.

Elsa Ronningstam, PhD; Arielle R. Baskin-Sommers, MS (2013). Fear and decision-making in narcissistic personality disorder—a link between psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 15(2): 191–201.

Phillip S. Freeman (2013). ARGO: Actuality in Cinema. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 10/2: 178-180 (posted under Film Series)

Dan H. Buie (2013). Core Issues in the Treatment of Personality-Disordered Patients. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 61/1: 10-23.

Ana-María Rizzuto, MD (2013). Field Theory, the “Talking Cure,” and Metaphoric Processes.Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 33:3, 210-228.

Phillip S. Freeman, MD (2012). The Resilience of Illusion. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies (First Brief Communication, 9: 78-83; Second Brief Communication, 9: 344-349).

Paul Ornstein, MD (2012). The Novelist’s Craft: Reflections on The Brothers Karamazov. American Imago, 69/3, p. 295-316.

Stephanie R. Brody, PsyD (2013). Entering Night Country: Reflections on Self-Disclosure and Vulnerability. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 23:1, p. 45-58.

Ellen Pinsky, PsyD (2012). PHYSIC HIMSELF MUST FADE: A View of the Therapeutic Offering through the Lens of Mortality. American Imago, Vol. 69, No. 1, 29-56.

All articles are available in the library.